11 August 2023
As August arrives, we find ourselves in the heart of the UK’s traditional summer getaway month. For those not embarking on great adventures, it’s the perfect time to relish the fruits of your labour in the garden. With a slower pace, you can now take on tasks at a more leisurely “pottering” speed, rather than rushing frantically.
In these times of potential water restrictions, conserving water is crucial. It’s better to reuse water from other sources, such as washing up water, for irrigating your plants. Just make sure to avoid getting the water on the leaves to prevent any damage. Bathwater can also be used, but try to limit the use of chemicals in it. At Furzey we put mulch around the base of our plants to keep the soil moist and help lock moisture into the soil, reducing the need for as much watering.
Jobs to Be Getting On With:
From now until mid-September, it’s time to apply a high-phosphate fertiliser to your lawn. Phosphates are essential for developing strong root systems in plants, which will help your lawn endure the upcoming winter months. A robust root system will also help thicken the sward when you scarify the lawn in spring. You can easily find autumn fertilisers in garden centres, and they are, usually, reasonably priced.
Plant narcissi and daffodils from now and throughout autumn. With numerous varieties to choose from, they create a delightful, naturalised display in your grassy areas. We have a variety of spring bulbs and they are a welcome sight as the gardens shake off the cold and dull days of winter.
Now is the time to take action and prevent larger or taller perennials from flopping over and overshadowing smaller plants or invading your lawn space. Consider cutting back plants like Achilleas, ensuring sunlight reaches other plants beneath. In some cases, cut-back plants may even surprise you by flowering again, adding much-needed colour as autumn approaches.
For abundant and prolonged dahlia blooms, regularly deadhead the spent flowers. It might seem confusing at first, but distinguishing between the spent flower heads and new buds becomes easy with practice. A spent dahlia head is slightly conical, whereas a new bud is more compact and rounded in shape. If earwigs become a nuisance, especially on dahlias and chrysanthemums, try using upturned plant pots filled with straw placed among the affected flowers. The earwigs will seek shelter in the pots during the daytime, making it easier for you to remove and handle them.
Wisterias require a summer pruning which you should try to complete by the end of August. Trim back all the excess whippy growths that are not necessary for tying in, leaving five or six buds from the main stems. This provides enough leaf coverage for photosynthesis while encouraging the development of flower buds for the following year’s blooms.
If you wonder why your wisteria hasn’t flowered much or at all, there are two common explanations. First, the plant might not have received sufficient water during the summer months (June to August), which can slow down bud development. Second, it’s possible that your Wisteria is not a named hybrid but instead grafted onto rootstock. You can check this by inspecting the base of the main stem for a swollen section, indicating the graft point. Wisterias grown from seed or those that are unnamed may take several years to flower, if they flower at all.
Trees & Shrubs
This is the perfect time to propagate azaleas and rhododendrons through layering. Take a flexible shoot long enough to bend down to the ground, make a small cut below a node on the side that will touch the soil, and pin it down. Optionally, you can place a tile or brick on top to hold it in place and mark its location. After twelve to eighteen months, the stem will have rooted well and can be separated from the parent plant and replanted elsewhere.
All trained fruit trees, such as espaliers or cordons, should have their summer pruning completed by the end of August. Prune all new shoots to two or three buds from the main stems to allow sunlight to reach the developing fruit and strengthen branch spurs, which will carry new flower buds for next year’s harvest.
Things to See and Do at Furzey Gardens
If you get some time away from your own garden this month then why not visit us at Furzey Gardens? The cloud-pruned Scots Pine tree on the top lawn, near the tea rooms, is a topiary masterpiece not to be missed. Garden designer Chris Beardshaw donated this tree to Furzey Gardens after an RHS Chelsea Flower Show a few years ago. In the wild, these trees can reach impressive heights and live for up to 700 years!
As you walk down the garden towards the lake, you’ll encounter several Gunnera manicatas, also known as Giant Rhubarb. These moisture-loving plants have huge leaves, spiny underneath and along the stems, giving them an appearance straight out of Jurassic Park. Kids and adults alike are fascinated by these prehistoric-looking wonders.
Hydrangea lovers will be enchanted by the Hydrangea Walk, a lower gravel path through the gardens lined with various Hydrangea cultivars, each boasting unique flower sizes, shapes, and colours. It’s a favourite spot to stroll during this time of year.
If you plan to visit Furzey Gardens, be sure to explore the Artist’s Fairy Doors Trail. Additionally, from 5th to 28th August, the London Touring Players will be performing outdoor theatre with ‘Twelfth Night,’ following last year’s sold-out run’ It’s a chance to marvel at the incredible talents of these performers.
So this August, take a pause from the hustle and bustle, embrace a pottering pace in your garden, and relish the beauty and tranquillity that nature has to offer.
Andrew Bentley, Estate Manager, Furzey Gardens.
This article originally appeared as the monthly In The Garden column in the Lymington Times, buy the paper on the second Friday of every month to read the next column first.
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